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United Methodist court opens door to petitions for special session on sexuality

Bishop Bruce R. Ough addresses the Judicial Council during an oral hearing on May 22, 2018, in Evanston, Ill. Photo by Kathleen Barry/UMNS

EVANSTON, Ill. (RNS) — A decision this week by the United Methodist Church’s top court hints at what the denomination’s planned special session on sexuality will look like.

And it has some worried that the special session of its General Conference, called for February 2019 in St. Louis to settle questions of ordination and marriage of LGBT members, could become mired in the same opposing petitions and points of order that led the 2016 conference to defer all discussion of sexuality to a commission.

One delegate proclaimed at the time, “I believe we are confusing God at this point.”

“That is certainly a major concern — that the body gets so bogged down with rules and procedure and questions and points of order that the body doesn’t make any kind of determination,” said Stephanie Henry, rules committee chair for Commission on General Conference.

The Judicial Council decided Friday (May 25) to allow any organization, clergy member or lay member of the United Methodist Church to submit petitions for consideration by delegates at the special session.

Those petitions must be “in harmony with the purpose” of the session, according to the decision.

That purpose  is “limited to receiving and acting upon a report from the Council of Bishops based on the recommendations of the Commission on a Way Forward,” according to the bishops’ call for a special session. That commission was created at the quadrennial gathering of the denomination’s lawmaking body in Portland in 2016, after the global church found itself increasingly divided over matters of sexuality.

At that conference, 56 distinct legislative petitions were submitted regarding sexuality, including the ordination of LGBT clergy and same-sex marriage.

The 2016 General Conference “knew what it was doing,” Bishop Bruce Ough said during the proceedings of the Judicial Council this week in Evanston, Ill. “It was stopping the endless quadrennial cycle of legislative battles over human sexuality.”

Ough was president of the Council of Bishops during the conference.

The Commission on a Way Forward recently finished its work, and the Council of Bishops, now headed by Bishop Ken Carter, announced its recommendation of the One Church Plan, one of three possible solutions recommended by the commission.

The One Church Plan would allow regional conferences and individual churches to make their own decisions regarding the inclusion of their LGBT members. That recommendation will be part of the bishops’ report to the special session, including a historical narrative that also will include the two other plans from the commission.

The bishops had asked the Judicial Council to rule, in their own special session, whether delegates at the special session of the General Conference would consider other petitions in addition to acting on their report. Their motivation, Carter said, was “the well-being of the General Conference.”

“It’s only three days, which is a very short time to do really historic work on the impasse in which the church finds itself,” he said.

John Lomperis, a General Conference delegate and United Methodist director for the conservative Institute on Religion and Democracy, who offered arguments at an oral hearing Tuesday (May 22), said he was “very happy” with the Judicial Council’s decision. He had feared a special session limited to the bishops’ report would allow a “liberal majority faction within the United Methodist bishops to dictate what sorts of thing we delegates could or could not decide in 2019.”

The Council of Bishops includes all bishops in the United Methodist Church worldwide, and its recommendation comes with the agreement of those bishops.

Henry, whose arguments at the hearing were on her own behalf and not on behalf of the committee, said she wasn’t surprised by the decision, but she was “a little disappointed that they didn’t provide more guidance” on what would be considered “in harmony” with the purpose of the session.

Deciding similar procedural matters took up the first three days of the 2016 General Conference, she remembered. She’s worried it could now take up a full day of the special session.

“The church has essentially hit the pause button until this 2019 general conference,” Henry said, “so if nothing comes out of it, then we’re back to 2016, and all this time and money — I hate to say it’s a waste because certainly things are happening, but it’s not the purpose. It’s not why we were called to be here.”

About the author

Emily McFarlan Miller

Emily McFarlan Miller is a national reporter for RNS based in Chicago. She covers evangelical and mainline Protestant Christianity.

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  • this is all one needs to know:

    Leviticus 18:22 – 22 You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination.

    Leviticus 20:13 – If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them.

    and:

    1 Corinthians 6:9-11English Standard Version (ESV)

    9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

    and finally:

    1 Corinthians 7 – Now for the matters you wrote about: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” 2 But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. 3 The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife.” But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband.”

  • Well here’s all YOU need to know, Sandimonious:

    Matthew 23

    Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, ‘The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practise what they teach. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. They love to have the place of honour at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the market-places, and to have people call them rabbi. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father—the one in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.

    ‘But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. For you do not go in yourselves, and when others are going in, you stop them. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cross sea and land to make a single convert, and you make the new convert twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.

    ‘Woe to you, blind guides, who say, “Whoever swears by the sanctuary is bound by nothing, but whoever swears by the gold of the sanctuary is bound by the oath.” You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the sanctuary that has made the gold sacred? And you say, “Whoever swears by the altar is bound by nothing, but whoever swears by the gift that is on the altar is bound by the oath.” How blind you are! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? So whoever swears by the altar, swears by it and by everything on it; and whoever swears by the sanctuary, swears by it and by the one who dwells in it; and whoever swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by the one who is seated upon it.

    ‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practised without neglecting the others. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel!

    ‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may become clean.

    ‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth. So you also on the outside look righteous to others, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

    ‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous, and you say, “If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.” Thus you testify against yourselves that you are descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your ancestors. You snakes, you brood of vipers! How can you escape being sentenced to hell? Therefore I send you prophets, sages, and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town, so that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly I tell you, all this will come upon this generation.

  • If a man and/or a woman quotes absurd dominionist assertions by ancient ignorant people, refuses to evaluate the assertions utilizing reason/evidence/logic, and then threatens people with eternal damnation if they refuse to live in accordance with those assertions, . . . they have committed an abomination.

  • All of the discombobulation and convulsion various denominations are currently experiencing over LGTB inclusion in the church will seem as ridiculous a few hundred years from now as the scene in the movie “The Name of the Rose” in which Franciscans debated overly-bedecked Vatican clergy over whether or not Jesus owned his own clothes, a topic that was apparently of utmost importance at the time.

    For denominations to pluck one prohibition out of the Book of Leviticus on which St. Paul based his condemnation of homosexuality while ignoring literally all the rest is not only unfair, it’s unjust, unwarranted, and ultimately, un-Christian. One of these days people will see that. Sadly, we are nowhere near that now.

  • This is so simple. Homosexuality is condemned is Scripture. If a person is in engaging in it then they need to repent. Case closed.

  • One delegate proclaimed at the time, “I believe we are confusing God at this point.”

    There is a Method(ist) to the madness.

  • Well, if you are going to go around quoting Jesus to support your theological position, then there’s simply no hope for you.

  • In the very same book of the Bible, Leviticus, the consumption of pork, shellfish and cheeseburgers is similarly condemned. Curiously, people who commit these “abominations” are somehow allowed to participate fully in the life of the churches. Go figure.

  • Tsk Tsk Tsk. What a crying shame these United Methodists aren’t like me, a Bible Christian. Otherwise, with You-Know-Who right “there in their midst”, they could’ve easily solved their disagreement problems by just hearing Him out and taking this step-by-step advice in Matthew 18:15-20:

    (1) “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.”

    (2) “But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed.”

    (3) “If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church”.

    (4) “And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”

    (5) “Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”

  • So what’s going on here? Who really won this Judicial Council decision? Honestly, Gay Goliath won it.

    “But wait a minute,” you say. “The pro-gay faction is complaining, and the conservatives seem happy.”

    Okay, but you’re seeing those reactions because the Judicial Council could have simply agreed with pro-gay Bishop Ough and the pro-gay Council of Bishops, and slammed the door right here and now on the Bible-believers. No joke.

    So Goliath pouts a little, and the conservatives cheer a little. For now. But notice that, just like with the Karen Oliveto decision, the Judicial Council threw up enough red tape to insure that the pro-gay forces can still squash any conservative moves at the crucial General Conference next February.

    Methodists, you are in trouble. The kind of trouble that people don’t walk away from, post-impact.

  • Sorry, but when you’re talking about 4.5% of the population which identifies as gay as Goliath compared to the remaining 95.5% which doesn’t, then your lame analogy is upside down. Try again – and try not to pout.

  • You’re not a real Christian unless you can complain persecution from the people you have defined as less than. Extra points if you really object to the objects of your disaffections fighting back.

  • The gay LGBT activists have already proven (totally proven) that their influence & power is not dependent on mere numbers.

    Goliath is Goliath, and Golath demands that the Bible believers bow down and surrender all the way. He don’t want compromise, he want capitulation — and he wants it to hurt.

    These Methodists really ARE in trouble, by any measure.

  • Hey, do you remember when I asked you to come up with even ONE statement from Jesus condemning homosexuality? And how you searched and searched, but couldn’t find any? And then you had to admit that Christian condemnation of gays was completely hypocritical. Ahh, good times.

  • There’s an app for that. It’s called “we think we found a loophole because we really want that bacon sandwich.”
    Can you hear me now? God’s word never changes, except when it does.

  • Jesus certainly did speak against homosexuality in Matt 5:32 and 19:9 where He uses the word “unchastity” and “immorality” which includes adultery, incest, premarital infidelity, homosexuality, beastiality and any other sexual conduct condemned in the OT.

  • “…their influence & power is NOT dependent on mere numbers.”

    Correct – it’s based on insisting on their constitutional rights – where the majority don’t always get their way. Their might is in being right.

  • The food laws of the OT are not applicable to the church but the moral laws of the OT are. That is why homosexuality is condemned in both testaments.

  • Ahh, ‘immorality,’ of course… which means whatever you personally want it to mean. How convenient. And how dishonest.

  • Jews make no distinction between what you call “food laws” vs. what you call “moral laws.” That distinction is of your own devising in order to justify your own prejudice. All laws in Leviticus were considered moral laws which demanded obedience by practicing Jews.

    These laws were written in order to ensure the survival of the Jewish race. Any sexual activity (like homosexuality or masturbation) which did not lead to the increase of the Jewish tribe was forbidden. Funny how nobody’s clamoring for punishment of the “sinful” masturbators among us – that’s probably because they realize that would eliminate nearly everyone.

    As modern science revealed that pork and shellfish are not harmful if cooked properly Conservative and Reformed Jews changed their tune. Orthodox Jews, in true fundamentalist fashion, continue to ignore science like all fundamentalists and still observe every dietary law.

    Thankfully we Christians have Jesus to remind us that “‘The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath.” (Mark 2:27) And if you didn’t catch his drift, he was talking about more than just the sabbath.

  • It actually has a lot more to do with 3,000 years of constant belief than it has to do with “pluck(ing) one prohibition out of the Book of Leviticus on which St. Paul
    based his condemnation of homosexuality while ignoring literally all the
    rest”, but that’s your story and you’re sticking to it.

  • It seemed rather clear for about 3,000 years and still seems to be for the larger majority of Christians.

  • Correct, their goddamned bigotry is more important that treating people with respect.

  • Eating shrimp is condemned in Scripture. Wearing clothing of mixed fibers is condemned in Scripture. But you never hear homo-hating “Christians” speak out against those things, among others.

  • But in this case, it’s not about the demonstrably false notion of gay marriage as a U.S. Constitutional right.

    This is a different matter, because American churches DO have the constitutional right to ban gay marriage and practicing gay clergy within their own ranks. Period. Religious freedom.

    The Methodists could have stopped this final disaster, years ago. Now it’s 99.9% too late. Dead Meato, barring miracle.

  • Thats because the food laws no longer apply to Christians. The moral Laws of the the OT still apply. Homosxual practices is condemned in the OT.

  • Jesus declared all foods clean.
    Homosexuality was condemned in the OT and the NT.
    Modern medicine tells us how harmful homosexual sex is. Just look at the CDC reports on STD’s and HIV related to homosexual sex.

  • “The One Church Plan would allow regional conferences and individual churches to make their own decisions regarding the inclusion of their LGBT members.”

    Maybe this is the way it needs to go. I know some Methodists and many people of other Christian and other faiths, who see a need to rethink what we used to believe about sexuality, not just re LGBTQI people, but the role of sex in the lives of heterosexual people, too. Women are not now slaves to their wombs, they have an ability to manage fertility they never had before. And, we have billions of people in the world and are coming to realize, I hope, that there is a limit to all the life Earth can sustain. We need to factor this natural limit into our thinking about the role of sex in our lives and that responsibility to limit how many children we have.

  • Yes it is, praise God. I’m pleased to carry His yoke. Give it a try. Satan will always take you back, Ben

  • As a matter of fact. I don’t. I’ve been posting Christ’s condemnation of homosexuality for about 5 years now

  • True. The main distinction being, that they expected righteous Gentiles to observe the moral law but not the kosher ones. Which policy continued unchanged when Gentiles became part of the Church.

  • https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/62221/jewish/The-7-Noahide-Laws-Universal-Morality.htm

    6, Harness and
    channel the human libido is interesting.

    Despite what our imaginative same sex advocate has attributed to Leviticus, Jews believed that it was basic to humanity that incest, adultery, rape and
    homosexual relations were forbidden.

    The family unit is the foundation of human society. Sexuality is the fountain
    of life and so nothing is more holy than the sexual act.

    This ties together with “Go forth and multiply”, which mandates the correct use of the sexual appetites for the purpose of mankind.

    This Johny-come-lately exegesis justifying same sex activities is simply poppycock.

  • You have hypocrisy issues. Many of the “abominations” had nothing to do with food. There are many nutty “moral laws” in the OT that I am certain you do not follow.

  • I was raised Methodist but left it at 32 (in part as a result of a move). Glad I’m not still there for this rolling denominational tragedy. The UMC should have (SHOULD HAVE) been leading the protestant-end charge for human rights world wide. Instead, while it is theologically fooling around with this, the gay-haters were used to elect and re-elect Putin in Russia and Trump (TRUMP) in America, not to mention a great deal of Africa going to waste religiously.

    Absolutely no one is going to be satisfied with “let each Congregation or regional body decide”. This is for the same reason why “let each U.S. state decide” is permanently unworkable and administratively ridiculous. Kennedy and four others did at SCOTUS what UMC should be doing—–settle the whole body on the side of acceptance of all people. If some want to quit as a result, let ’em go. But SOMEBODY has to shut down the debate. As long as this junk goes on, you are losing your world to Putin and Trump. What does that mean?
    Oligarchy from the wealth class, of course.

  • So whether or not they endorse soul-destroying sin is just “theologically fooling around”. Got it.

  • Far more common “soul-destroying sin(s)” such as greed, racism, adultery, hypocrisy, et al go largely unremarked upon by the bedroom-peepers.

  • Nothing soul destroying about my alleged sin. Soul destroying— spirit crushing, happiness wrecking— is what has been done to gay people under the guise of your religion for the past 2000 years.

  • Shall we look at Deuteronomy, and its demands that you should kill the unbelievers in your town? Now there is a moral law that should not be ignored.

  • Who was Deuteronomy written for?

    When you read a history on war do you think it applies to you personally? When a commander is recorded as telling his men to kill the enemy do you think he giving you a command also to kill your enemies?

  • I believe the fact that the entire Jewish cultic law was not imported en masse into Christianity has been discussed in the past – perhaps one or two hundred times.

  • In short, you have no answer. No surprise. Who was Leviticus given to? The Levites, the priesthood.
    Either believing in your particular and peculiar version of god is a moral imperative, or it is not, and the whole boble can be ignored.
    You simply don’t believe your own rhetoric.

  • If you are familiar with the history of Jewish jurisprudence, you would know that they rarely stoned anyone for anything. The standard of putting someone to death in Israel was so strict it was rarely met. Four adult males had to have visually witnessed the transgression as it was commited and they must have each made eye contact with one another at that time.

  • I am familiar with the history of Jewish jurisprudence.

    Whether stoning was rare, how rare, and so on depended on

    – the nature of the offense

    – the time period – where in the trajectory of the rise of rabbis it took place

    – the geographic location – metropolitan areas where Jews were minorities were laxer than the “boonies”

    We have already noted at least four incidents of stoning, or attempted stoning in the New Testament (Acts 7, John 8:7, John 8:59, and John 10:22-31.

    A priest who performed ritual while unclean got no formal trial; he was simply taken out of the Temple and clubbed to death.

    In practice there was a two-tier system of capital punishment under Talmudic law: formal capital punishment meted out after a formal trial when two non-disjoined witnesses gave evidence; informal capital punishment where there was no formal trial and the accused was executed in prison, equivalent to a lynching.

  • Perhaps the reason for that is because nobody is lobbying to make Christians change their moral teachings and declare the sins of “greed, racism, adultery, hypocrisy et al” – unlike with certain sexual sins (homosexual sins et al) – to be, presto change-o, no longer sinful.

    If there were such efforts to make Christians declare the sins you mentioned to be morally virtuous- and in need of acceptance, affirmation, and celebration (as is done now with lgbt sins), traditionalist Christians would certainly object loudly to that as well. I know I would.

  • “Theological fooling around” is what is being done when the church is told that objecting to other people’s same-sex relationships is more important than democracy and voting rights, real education, honesty in economics, environmental concerns, social justice and projecting humble truth on all subjects to the world from the United States Government on behalf of the American people. You and I are now living in the age of colossal screw-up on many, many levels. The gin-up of hatred for LGBTs is the proximate reason why both Russia and America are suffering horrible leadership with Putinism and Trumpism. The consequences of this are enormous and enormously negative. Those causing it are committing theological malpractice of the worst order.

  • Sorry, but it’s not either/or; either we support the well-being of society, the environment, etc., OR we maintain that lgbt sins are indeed sinful. The Church must do BOTH. To do otherwise would indeed be serious theological malpractice.

    “…democracy…” Christianity really has no dog in that fight. It works with a wide variety of governmental polities to ensure responsible government actions.

  • “…perhaps one or two hundred times.”

    That may be a conservative estimate!

  • Evidently you do not yet understand the reality of Trumpism in America, who elected it, why they did and what the ramifications are. The government is irretrievably broke from tax cutting, the agencies and courts plan to favor corporations over people with “textualism”, wealth and power are concentrating upward at a breakneck clip and the President of the United States is consistently telling several major lies per day to our children.

    Maybe YOUR Christianity has no dog in the fight for whether democracy is preferable to hoodoo and dictatorship. Mine does and more than half the people in the USA agree.
    We ain’t Iran. We ain’t the Falwell version of Iran either. The only way that blessing remains is this: If the churches have gone nuts, outvote them.

  • The Book of Leviticus, the third book of the Torah, consists of God’s speeches to Moses, which he is commanded to repeat to the Israelites as a whole.

    It is not written to the Levites per se.

    But no matter, the Seven Laws of Noah (Sheva Mitzvot B’nei Noach) is a binding set of laws for the “children of Noah” – all of humanity.

    It contains the same moral teaching.

  • The arguments among Christians about the morality of homosexuality are simply that— arguments among Christians.there is nothing that requires any Christian to change his or her views, except the arguments of other Christians.

    Those of us who are not Christians are simply sick and tired of your religious point of view being used as the justification for the harm wrought in our lives: attacks on our marriages and relationships, lies, sodomy laws, disinformation, don’t ask don’t tell, lies, anti marriage campaigns, misinformation, political propaganda campaigns based upon lies, jails, scare tactics, murders, lies, suicides, anti adoption campaigns, and all of the other harms that you ABSOLUTELY DO NOT PROMULGATE or direct at all of those other sinners.

    Stop attacking our participation in society 7nder the isle of your fav and you would be surprised how little anyone would care.

  • There really is not argument.

    The vast majority of Christians – Orthodox, Catholic, Oriental Orthodox, Evangelical Protestants – see nothing to argue about.

    The trajectory of liberal Protestantism out of Christianity is of little interest to them.

    As our system of government is designed, all those Christians are entitled to influence the laws of this county whether you’re sick and tired of their religious point of view or not.

    And frankly they’re sick and tired of your lies, disinformation, misinformation, political propaganda campaigns, and all of the other harms that you are attempting to inflict on society as a whole.

    As the Masterpiece Bakery case demonstrated, what you really are aiming for is making anyone with religious beliefs keep them at home, church, temple, mosque, synagogue and out of the public square.

  • Ben, kindly show in my posts where I am, in your words, attacking your participation in society. I did no such thing.

    What I DID say was that I objected to Mr. Goat’s characterization of the defense of traditional Christian sexual ethics as “theological fooling around”. Sexual ethics is an important subject that merits serious consideration, even if Mr. Goat takes it lightly. My posts dealt essentially with an internal Christian debate, not about violence/mistreatment of LGBT folk (which should be abhorrent to all Christians).

  • If you’re going to offer goods or services to the public, then don’t discriminate on the basis of your selective private beliefs. (Does Masterpiece Bakery screen for pre-marital sex, birth control, masturbation before baking a cake.)

    What’s so hard about that?

  • As you are no doubt aware the Masterpiece case is before the United States Supreme Court.

    As the case was presented, it was a bit more involved than “if you’re going to offer goods or services to the public”, although the throng at JoeMyGod and other places on the internet apparently thought otherwise.

    So, we’ll just dispense with the irrelevant “Does Masterpiece Bakery screen for pre-marital sex, birth control, masturbation before baking a cake” and head right for some key issues.

    – Sexual orientation is not a Federally protected classification under the discrimination laws governing interstate commerce. Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission arose from a Colorado state law, the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act.

    – Yes, certain providers of services can discriminate on the basis of selective private beliefs; among them are attorneys and doctors.

    – The Colorado Civil Rights Commission has allowed bakers to refuse to provide cakes with anti-same-sex marriage messages on them.

    – A member of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission engaged in what could only be described as an anti-religious rant during the hearing on the matter.

    – The product sought was not one of a half-dozen standard cakes being sold from a rack, but a custom wedding cake with special design features celebrating same-sex marriage.

    The issue before the Supreme Court is whether the State of Colorado can, under the guise of “anti-discrimination”, compel speech (artistic expression is speech under the First Amendment) by someone who objects to its content.

  • In my opinion ALL of our political parties are responsible for the abuses of big government that afflict us. The Obama administration (“If you like your health insurance, you can keep it.”) lied to the American people every chance it got, just like the previous administrations, and just like the current one. To blame it all on “Trumpism” evidences a lack of perception of the corruption and misguided policies of both GOP and Dem politicians, and sounds very much like one-sided partisanship favoring the party currently “out”.

  • I would suspect that if it was a cake celebrating pre-marital sex, birth control, or masturbation, they might very well decline to bake it.

  • You’re welcome to blame everything and nothing at the same time—-setting up your own defensive equivalences (all politicians and parties are bad) to excuse our present civic catastrophe with Trump and advantage-taking Republicans, as you wish. I am not one who is willing to buy the spin. Any chance you can just write your own original comments instead of quipping around on mine?

  • “…to excuse our present civic catastrophe with Trump…”

    Where did you ever get the idea I was EXCUSING it? Quite he contrary, I was laying the BLAME squarely on BOTH sides. But I guess your partisan ship for one side prevents you from seeing that.

    “…anti-PPACA crusaders…”
    Where did I express an opinion PPACA? I said nothing about it. What I DID point out was Obama’s massive whopper (“If you like your health insurance…”), and that as an example of lying not being confined to the Trumpistas.

    Do you really believe democracy is an article of the Christian faith?

    Finally, if you don’t want anyone to comment on what you have written, maybe this is not the forum for you. Perhaps you would be more at home writing for “MSN”; they do not allow any comments, or questioning of their narrative.

  • My apologies. You should know thatthe “you” I mentioned was a generic you, conservative Christianity in general, not you in particular. You have stated this before, and I believe you.

    Again, my apologies.

  • I spend almost all of my time in comment sections either writing original thoughts or replying to those who have replied to me. I try to resist the temptation to just start arguments over what others write. When someone who (by your claimed name) should know better opens with a snark paraphrase of my thoughts and a “Got It”, I go defensive right off the bat—-as would anyone with sense. The tone gave you away as a hopeless (IMHO) right-winger out to swat me. So do your references to Obama as a supposed liar with respect to PPACA. You might be the 100th or so of these who have similarly accosted me on Disqus and the repeating patterns of aggression are quite familiar. I don’t cave to it.

    And, yes, Democracy is an article of Christian faith. Real Christianity (acted out in nations) never survived without it and never will. We depend on people of faith to have the famous Christian “discernment”, to point the government to both kindness and truth on all issues.
    When they are too busy with “lock her up” and “build a wall” and “deport the illegals”, and “stand for the national anthem”, and “America First”, they are off their Christian rockers. We will be needing Democracy to pull ourselves back out of this ditch. We might hope to flip some of those 81% of “Evangelicals” back from Trump to the spirit of Jesus—–or—–we will simply need to get the conscientious heathen to outvote them so that Christianity does devolve to permanent meanness in this country. .
    Either would work.

  • Sure, let’s look at Deuteronomy, just like you want. Not difficult. This will destroy your objection totally.

    In Deut, there are NO “demands that you should kill the unbelievers in your town.” In fact, Deut. 5:17, one of the 10 C’s, clearly says, “You shall not murder.” So there you go.

    However, in Deut. chapters 13 and 17, a certain kind of sin against God was assigned the death penalty within Israel, (just like Leviticus did). That specific sin is enticing the Israelite folks to “go and worship other gods” via words or deeds. Enticing idolatry against God.

    But this death penalty had to be preceded by an investigation, an examination, a judicial decision. “You must investigate it thoroughly.” (17:4) “You must inquire, probe and investigate it thoroughly.” (13:14).
    If a guilty decision, whoever made the accusation must publicly lead the execution, and the entire community had to join in. (No such thing as anonymous “swatting.”) Plus difficult cases had the right of appeal.

    So there you go Ben. Just like the Lev death penalty for certain sexual sins, this Deut death penalty application was all specifically given to Old Testament Israel. To them, not us.

  • Sure, let’s look at Deuteronomy, you silly man. You know, the parts you didn’t bother to cite, because dishonesty is what you are selling.

    Starting with Deut. 13x-6, and continuing to to the end of 13:

    If your very own brother, or your son or daughter, or the wife you love, or your closest friend secretly entices you, saying, “Let us go and worship other gods” (gods that neither you nor your ancestors have known, gods of the peoples around you, whether near or far, from one end of the land to the other),do not yield to them or listen to them. Show them no pity. Do not spare them or shield them. You must certainly put them to death. Your hand must be the first in putting them to death, and then the hands of all the people. Stone them to death, because they tried to turn you away from the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.Then all Israel will hear and be afraid, and no one among you will do such an evil thing again. If you hear it said about one of the towns the LORD your God is giving you to live inNew International Version
    that troublemakers have arisen among you and have led the people of their town astray, saying, “Let us go and worship other gods” (gods you have not known),then you must inquire, probe and investigate it thoroughly. And if it is true and it has been proved that this detestable thing has been done among you,you must certainly put to the sword all who live in that town. You must destroy it completely, both its people and its livestock. You are to gather all the plunder of the town into the middle of the public square and completely burn the town and all its plunder as a whole burnt offering to the LORD your God. That town is to remain a ruin forever, never to be rebuilt,and none of the condemned things are to be found in your hands. Then the LORD will turn from his fierce anger, will show you mercy, and will have compassion on you. He will increase your numbers, as he promised on oath to your ancestors–

    How inconvenient.

  • “…Democracy is an article of Christian faith…”

    Please tell me in what church that might be the case. It doesn’t appear as an article of faith in the Bible, the Nicene Creed, the Seven Ecumenical Councils, etc.

    I am virtually certain that Saint Constantine, Saint Justinian, Saint Vladimir, Saint Theodora (the wife of Theophilos), etc., as well as probably all the Holy Fathers of the Patristic period, would strongly disagree with your assertion.

  • Okay, thanks for the quotation. Let’s look again. Btw, you’re not being told to murder anybody (Deut. 5:17).

    You see the line, “Let us go and worship other gods.” That’s the specific sin, an active and poisonous enticement to idolatry. God tells Israel (not us, just Israel) to put a judicial death penalty on it.

    And you see the important line, “You must inquire, probe and investigate it thoroughly.”
    Fairness. Due process.

    Hence your objection is wiped out.

  • Nope. It STILL calls for murder for not worshipping your particular god. So you investigate it thoroughly. It STILL calls for murder for not worshipping your particular god. Call it a legal execution, It STILL calls for murder for not worshipping your particular god.

  • Yes, those Saints and some of the Holy Fathers would probably disagree with democracy either in the church(es) and maybe even in national governments, although the cardinals still vote to select each new Pope, don’t they?

    My take on democracy for nations such as the USA and almost all others we consider “free” is this: If we want to have a “freedom OF religion” country for Catholics, Protestants, Mormons, Jews, Muslims and all other belief systems we call religions (plus nonbelievers), then we need democracy to preserve our freedom FROM Catholics, Protestants, Mormons, Jews, Muslims and all other belief systems we call religions. Freedom of religion and freedom from (somebody else’s) religion are the same thing. Democracy is supposed to maintain this for us—–and does in many countries.

    But, now after a lot of progress toward such freedom in the 20th Century, we are in a growing danger of it all going backwards. We have some members of SCOTUS who likely believe that “religious freedom” is freedom to marginalize other people on the basis of whether some doctrine pronounces them as “sinners” (LGBT people), or inferior (racism, past and present), or less suitable for leadership on major matters (female). When one decides to be fully dedicated to “Constitutional Originalism” then one can readily toss 230 years of enlightenment on everything from human rights to environment to labor law to even a protected right of privacy for individuals. The Founders, in their supposed infinite wisdom, left out important matters.

    Full disclosure: I am 66, married 46 years to one woman, a parent and grandparent, active in Protestant denominations for the first 2/3 of my life (and would still be there if most of American Christianity had not become a shill for Republicanism). The Catholics only voted tor Trump at 52% (to their relative credit), but my former brethren—-white Evangelicals—–bit his bait at a whopping 81% and put ridiculousness-on-a-stick into the seat of American Government. This is all something for both church and state to “come back from” and the process could be both long and exceedingly difficult. Only democracy can ever fix the mess, and it may take years to decades.

  • It certainly seems to call for that if you happen to be living a few centuries before the Common Era and are an Israelite.

    As for Floyd Lee or anyone else today, not so much.

  • Yes. I have to believe that Ben is honest enough to acknowledge that one point, if nothing else. Hello Ben?

    Meanwhile, terrorist Tim McVeigh got a death penalty for all the people he murdered, yet nobody says McVeigh’s own death was “murder.” Why?

    Because here’s the definition of murder (Merriam Webster): “The crime of unlawfully killing a person especially with malice aforethought.”

    So God hasn’t told anybody to murder anybody (in fact Deut. 5:17 prohibits it). But the God-given laws for OT ISRAEL (not us), call for the death penalty for certain poisonous sins, yet only within specific judicial & due-process limits. The End (again).

  • Personally I believe such passages should be interpreted along the lines of the ancient Patristic period writers (the “Holy Fathers”).

    For example, Psalm 101:8 (” “I will early destroy all the wicked of the land.”) would be taken to mean either:

    1. We are to convert wicked people to goodness. (When a wicked person becomes a good person, they are no longer a wicked person: the wicked person is “destroyed” by becoming good.)

    2. Alternately, we may take the passage to mean that we are to confront and banish (“destroy”) thoughts inclining us to evils such as hatred, greed, anger, lust, lying, etc. (“the wicked of the land”) when those thoughts first arise in our consciousness (“early”).

    Psalm 137, for example, is always interpreted in this way (especially verse 9: “Blessed is he who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock.”), and so is regularly sung in some of the Orthodox Church’s Lenten services.

    Sorry for not responding sooner; too busy grilling, making pasta salad, and watching baseball. Hope you had a good Memorial Day as well!

  • But why not use words for translation that are commonly understood, rather than words which must be “interpreted” after they have been “translated”, which make it appear that the Bible is being whitewashed to make it appear not so inconvenient?

  • Your numbers there, Elagabalus, are a gross exaggeration that continues to be put forth by the LGBTQ lobby to make their numbers appear bigger than they really are.

    According to the Center for Disease Control, the number of homosexuals in the US has been stable for several decades now, and stay somewhere between 2.5-3.3% of the population.

    I trust their numbers far more than a group with a definite agenda!

  • Yes, parables, types, allegories, etc., are abundant in Scripture. That is why the Apostle Peter wrote that “…no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own private interpretation…”.

    Otherwise one ends up with a thousand different sects (vide Protestantism), and people running around claiming Trump’s moving the embassy “fulfills Biblical prophecy”.

  • Modern democracy is a product of the European “Enlightenment” (which itself was largely anti-Christian); it was not a product of Christianity. It is certainly startling to hear of democracy being considered an article of the Christian faith.

    As for myself, I am likewise in my 60s, male, married to one woman for nearly 40 years, have several children, and am an Orthodox Archpriest.

  • But if parables and allegories are abundant in scripture, doesn’t that simply invite interpretation? and how do you tell which is parable/allegory and which is not

  • Thanks for your short bio information. One reason I mentioned mine was to make clear to you that, though I argue for LGBT rights, it is not because I am personally L, G, B or T.

    Democracy certainly carries its risks that people can be induced (via bad messaging) to vote for something other than “love the neighbors” (as recently happened in the presidencies of both Russia and America), but most Christians are no longer willing to trust some other method to produce kings for them. Perhaps this is enlightenment, as you say.

  • The couple in Masterpiece never got to a discussion of design with the baker. He refused to sell them any wedding cake, whether it came off the rack or was made from scratch, once he found out they were a gay couple. It appears undisputed that they had no conversation with the baker about “special design features celebrating same-sex marriage.”
    Additionally, you are framing the issue from the baker’s perspective. The question is also whether the baker is entitled to say he’s an artist and thus all of his creations are speech for First Amendment purposes.

  • That does not appear to be consistent with the record.

    He specifically does not sell “off the rack” cakes.

    If nude dancing is speech for First Amendment purposes, and it is, he’s an artist.

  • Conservative Judaism still adheres to kashrut, even if most of the laity doesn’t. Shellfish and pork are still forbidden (but there are more leniencies in practice when you get into the weeds, like ordering a hot non-meat dish at a non-kosher restaurant). The birth point of Conservative Judaism is considered to be the “Trefa Banquet,” a dinner held by the then-nascent Reform Judaism in 1883, in which the “conservatives” among the modernists in American Judaism were outraged by the non-kosher menu and felt there had to be a “middle way” between eating shrimp and frog’s legs on one hand, and living like you were still in the shtetl on the other. Although the Reform movement of its time, like Christianity in the first century, deemed the dietary laws obsolete and only observed the “moral laws,” by the latter part of the 20th century they also found themselves returning to appreciating its significance — which does not and never has had much if anything to do with science.

  • There are countless distinctions between the laws, that’s what the root of the word Pharisee really means, and why the laws can be studied over and over. But to say that some laws are “moral” and some are “ritual” is something even Reform Judaism has largely discarded.

  • “Modern democracy is a product of the European “Enlightenment” (which itself was largely anti-Christian); it was not a product of Christianity.”
    There are a number of hyper conservative Christians on these very pages who would disagree with that.

  • That points to the importance of having the matrix of Church tradition (provided by the Patristic writers, the Liturgical tradition, the Councils, etc.) within which the Biblical texts can be communally approached and understood. Without that, it is indeed an anything-goes Wild West welter of contradictory opinions.

  • Very true. Their churches -while often lacking a cross in the sanctuary, always seem to have an American flag prominently displayed there.

  • Since the discussion centered on Christian morality, that distinction is critical.

    It’s why Christians – for the most part – don’t keep kosher but do consider fornication immorality.

  • What scripture? The Buddhist Sanskrit scripture? Hindu Veda’s? Mormon scripture? Confucius-Mencius ethical scripture?

    Repent based upon one the above…The majority of people in the world are familiar with some of those.

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